Directed by: Scott Cooper
Produced by: Scott Cooper
Screenplay by: Jez Butterworth
Based on: Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neil
Starring: Johnny Depp
Music by: Junkie XL
Cinematography by: Masanobu Takayanagi
Editing by: David Rosenbloom
Studio(s): Cross Creek Pictures
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s): September 4, 2015 (Venice Film Festival)
September 18, 2015 (United States)
November 25, 2015 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 122 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $53 million
Box-office revenue (as of publication): $95, 075, 678
Et toi! The second film up for review today is Black Mass, Scott Cooper crime drama biopic which follows the criminal career of Boston's infamous Irish-American criminal James 'Whitey' Bulger, who is played by Johnny Depp. Got it? Good!
To start off with the good, this is Johnny Depp's best performance in quite a long time, certainly since 2011's Rango and his best live-action role since 2007's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. Of course, the make-up and hair add to the overall look of the role, but Depp believably carries off the physical presence of Bulger. Indeed, between the tone of his voice and his superb elocution, there are times when he is legitimately menacing, which is really something when you think about how charming most of Depp's other onscreen characters are. The film is held up entirely on the power of this performance, for which Depp deserves a lot of praise. Two other aspects of the film are also praiseworthy, namely the cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi and the musical score by Junkie XL. Takayanagi has brought his smooth, crisp approach to cinematography to Black Mass, giving the picture a distinctive look, a rather interesting look at South Boston. As for the latter, Junkie XL, who has been racking up quite a few films as a composer lately, takes on Black Mass with classical film composition methods, but does them it that little bit differently to add a subconscious feeling that something is off-kilter. The way it interacts with Depp's performance creates some of the best scenes in the film, and warts and all, makes for some good cinema at it's best moments.
Black Mass manages to be a somewhat good film, getting over primarily on the strength of Johnny Depp's performance, but it can't be denied that the film is a bit of a mess, particularly as regards the script. The argument could be made that the dialogue is decent, but that's down to Depp's level of investment in the character, but the direction of the story is absolute hokum. No one else's character in the film is fully developed, a total waste of the ensemble cast, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton and Kevin Bacon. The plot itself also comes across as filler around which Depp could give a great performance, but one great performance does not maketh a great movie. I went to see the film with my good friend over at Danland Movies, and I don't think either of us could recall the plot. It was a really bizarre case of filmic amnesia; we almost completely blanked out the film. Scott Cooper does not enough control of this mish-mash story and affects his performance as a director. Perhaps if he wrote the film, as he did his two previous works, the case would have been different, but unfortunately it didn't turn out that way. Alongside The Departed and The Town, this seems small fry.
Black Mass manages to be a somewhat good film primarily on the basis of Johnny Depp's well-rounded and legitimately intimidating performance. Also, the score and the cinematography are strong points. However, it reminds of the case with Rampart, which boasts a superb turn from Woody Harrelson but doesn't have the rest to back it up, and as I said earlier, a great performance does not maketh a great movie. Scott Cooper's direction lacks the assured quality required to deliver the film that status, and the film's story is in no way anything more than a tedious re-hash of themes done better in other films. It's as well it can boast Depp's performance, otherwise it could have been a stinker. As it is, it can get over as a good enough film to be considered at least watchable.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.1/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Alright